While Raney Nelson and I could gin up some pretty good tools and get them made, we’d quickly become overwhelmed by all the other parts of the tool-making business – warehousing, fulfillment, returns, customer service, accounting, taxes, permits, fees and any computer file that ends with a .xls.
If you’ve ever run your own full-time business, then you know that you needs someone who is willing to do the supremely un-sexy parts of running a real business. At Lost Art Press, that has always been John Hoffman, who is my 50-percent partner in the company and – honest – like an older brother to me.
What he does is thankless. When someone receives a poster with a bent corner (curse you, posters), it’s John and his sidekick Meghan Bates, who fix things. When we get an erroneous letter from some taxing authority, John cleans it up. When our warehouse pickers forget how to read, John is the one who knocks heads and keeps their error rate in check.
So when we started Crucible Tool, a huge concern was this: Would John want to do this all again and be the Crucible Tool Donkey? Lucky for me and Raney, John was just as enthusiastic. John rightly pointed out that he had already built a fulfillment, customer service and accounting system that could be copied (almost) verbatim for Crucible. We could use our same warehouse, same shipping backend software, same web interface.
John was in. And that was when Raney and I had simultaneous involuntary colon relaxation episodes.
So when we start shipping holdfasts (and a second tool to be announced soon), you can expect the same high level of shipping fulfillment and service when something goes sideways.
You might get a chance to meet John in the coming year. John has volunteered to hit the road on behalf of Crucible Tool and travel to a fair number of Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events to demonstrate the tools (and sell them).
That will allow Raney and me to focus on designing and making the tools, plus educating customers on our website.
I could just end this entry here, but I’d like to add something personal that will explain why John has always been one of my closest friends during the last 13 or 14 years.
John and I met in person at an Indianapolis woodworking show years ago. And after a series of phone calls, we ended up taking a chair class together in Cobden, Ontario. Before heading out to Cobden we spent a day or two in Ottawa to check out some museums.
Somehow we ended up in some French cafe, drinking coffee, eating croissants and talking about woodworking. I’m sure I was yammering about something when John stood up and helped an elderly woman who was struggling to pull her coat on. Then he pivoted and sat down again like nothing had happened. No big deal.
That was the first indicator (for me) that John was someone who always did the right thing and didn’t make a big fuss about it.
Since that first trip, John and I have traveled all over the United States and Europe together. We’ve built a good publishing company during the last nine years. And we’re now ready to build another company with Crucible.
I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather do this with. And though the backend of any business doesn’t make for interesting blogs on a daily basis, I think it’s important to let you know that that if I’m the mouth of Crucible, Raney is the brain and John is all the bones and guts that ensure we stay in business for many years to come.
– Christopher Schwarz